“ Of course there is no clear and objective measure of what is and what is not a “valuable contribution”, but if people are saying themselves that their job is worthless, something must be wrong.”
Is what is wrong “society” or the individual?
The major difference (from my perspective) isn’t in the value (or lack of) in anyone’s job or how Socialists and Progressives look at work. And, btw, the same issue holds for Libertarians, Conservatives, Marxists and any other political ideology.
Socialists and Progressives are looking at the same “problem” from completely different sides. The Socialist thinks that society as a whole decides what work is or isn’t of value. Progressives tend to want to leave the decision on whether or not work is valuable up to the individual.
But the fundamental question remains: How does the individual really know whether what they do for work is valuable to society or not?
An artist decides he’s going to make the lives of ill children better so he mixes up a bunch of face paints, goes to the local children’s hospital sets up a booth and starts painting faces. All the kids are happy, the artist derives great personal satisfaction and goes home a happy man and very satisfied with himself.
The next day 8 of those children die and after investigating, the medical authorities find that the paint used was toxic and poisoned the children.
Was the artist’s work “valuable” for society?
Another: Man “A” sees a pothole in the road. He goes out and places an orange safety come over it so that people won’t drive into it and damage their cars.
Man “B” comes along and sees the orange cone in the middle of the road and goes and removes it because people are veering dangerously around it.
Man A comes by again the next morning and seeing his cone is gone, places another one back over the pothole. Man B goes on his morning walk and sees the cone there again and removes it.
They both do this repeatedly for months on end.
Both men *think* they are performing a valuable service for society yet they each doing work that negates the other’s work. So is either man’s “work” really valuable?
Most political ideologies come to the conclusion that everything can’t be left to the individual to decide for themselves what is or isn’t valuable to society. Someone has to step in as the “big picture” person and make a decision between competing ideas. That usually ends up being some sort of government official.
The differences between all those political ideologies is in how much authority and the type of authority we each cede to those government officials.